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Summit County Preps Possible $50 Million Open Space Bond For A Resolution Next Week

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Summit County Council members on Wednesday directed their staff to prepare a resolution for next week which would propose an open space bond on the November ballot for up to $50 million.

The council is considering a ballot proposal that would do more than save open space.

A $50 million open space bond would be the largest in the county’s history, and the first time it’s ever requested an open space tax increase from residents outside Snyderville Basin. Officials said this week that with development pressure mounting throughout the county’s east side, they want to be ready to strike if parcels come onto the market that they want to preserve.

The wording in the resolution will say the bond can be used for other purposes besides preserving raw open space.  

County Council Member Chris Robinson said the bond could finance items such as trailheads, parking lots and restrooms.

The council legally has to approve a Resolution by August 19th, but it doesn’t commit them to the bond yet.   Robinson told KPCW that the number of $50 million is a maximum.

“We needed to set a parameter, an upper limit, and that felt like a good number, as had been mentioned in the meeting.   We’ve had bonds for just the Snyderville Basin at about half that dollar amount.    They weren’t G. O. bonds, which are general obligation bonds that cover the whole county.”

The county’s chief financial officer, Matt Leavitt, reported they are considering a 20-year bond.    He said that for the average primary residence with a market value at $685,000, an owner would pay $45-$50 for the first year.    He said the cost could decrease if property values increase.

Robinson said they’re just sticking their feet in the water with a resolution.     But they have to act, because the proposal, a general-obligation bond, can only be placed on a general election ballot.

He said it may seem to voters like the council came up with this proposal suddenly, but that’s not the case.

“We’ve been talking for a long time of how can we figure out a way to take advantage of the county’s big tax base, which results in a very low mill levy, to raise a fair amount of money at a pretty low cost per household, to protect open space, so as to provide another mechanism on the East Side to do that.”

Robinson added they also discussed the idea at their recent retreat.

He said they’ve informally discussed the bond with mayors from eastern Summit County.     Robinson said the city leaders understand the importance of open space, but they have some other priorities they want to fund.

“Some of the East Side mayors are concerned about some of the other funding things, like funding for emergency medical services, that the state has passed a law that’s changing how that happens.  They just want a discussion with the council on some of these other things.  It’s not like it’s directly competing with this.  They just want to take this opportunity to let us know other concerns they have.”

Summit County Council Member Chris Robinson.

Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas said for all practical purposes, the ballot question has to be finalized by mid-September.

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